Franklin Templeton CEO, fund managers fined Rs 15 cr by SEBI; forensic audit reveals discrepancies

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June 15, 2021 11:26 AM

The SEBI order imposes a Rs 3 crore penalty on Franklin Templeton Trustee Services and another Rs 2 crore each on Franklin Templeton AMC CEO, Sanjay Sapre and CIO Santosh Kamat.

It also claimed that the lapses were a fallout of Franklin Templeton's obsession to run high yield strategies, which allegedly disregarded the concomitant risk dimensions.It also claimed that the lapses were a fallout of Franklin Templeton's obsession to run high yield strategies, which allegedly disregarded the concomitant risk dimensions.

Capital markets regulator SEBI (Securities and Exchange Board of India) has fined Franklin Templeton Trustee Services; FT AMC CEO Sanjay Sapre; and seven others to the tune of Rs 15 crore, in the matter relating to the abrupt closure of six debt mutual funds schemes last year. SEBI in its order said that the evidence seen by it does not indicate that the Trustees had exercised high standards of service, exercised due diligence, ensured proper care and exercised independent professional judgment to address risks. Earlier last week, SEBI had fined Franklin Templeton and asked it to return Rs 512 crore in management and advisory fees to investors.

CEO, CIO, fund managers fined

The SEBI order imposes a Rs 3 crore penalty on Franklin Templeton Trustee Services and another Rs 2 crore each on Franklin Templeton AMC CEO, Sanjay Sapre and CIO Santosh Kamat. Further, the order has imposed a Rs 1.5 crore penalty each on Kunal Agarwal, Sumit Gupta, Pallab Roy, Sachin Padwal Desai, and Umesh Sharma — all fund managers. The market regulator has also fined Saurabh Gangrade, the Chief Compliance Officer of the firm Rs 50 lakh. The order said that the penalty has to be paid within 45 days.

“The serious lapses and violations clearly appear to be a fall out of the FT-MF’s obsession to run high yield strategies without due regard from the concomitant risk dimensions,” SEBI’s order said. They further added that the terms of investment covenants were apparently not in the interest of investors and the deficiencies in the agreements were sought to be corrected through a ‘commercial understanding’. 

Forensic audit reveals discrepancies

In the forensic audit, ordered last year, SEBI found that in the six closed schemes there were similarities in investment strategy although the investment objectives were different. “This was observed by way of high exposures in “AA and below” Corporate bonds in all the six schemes even though investment objectives as per the SIDs of these schemes are different,” the market watchdog noted. The audit found that in 42 instances (for FI-UBF) and 17 instances (for FI-LDF), exit options were in fact not exercised where available.

The audit also revealed that there were discrepancies in respect of valuation of securities where terms of the issue have been changed frequently which resulted in the declaration of incorrect NAV. It also found that FT failed to carry out due diligence with respect to investments in illiquid securities and observed that the pattern of investment transactions is “akin to giving loan to issuers”.

Franklin Templeton, reacting to the order said that disagrees with SEBI order. “We believe the company and employees have acted in compliance with regulations and in the best interest of unitholders in discharging their responsibilities. Based on our initial review of the order, we are considering all options with regard to next steps which may include filing an appeal before the Hon’ble Securities Appellate Tribunal (SAT),” a Franklin Templeton Spokesperson said. The six schemes under winding up have distributed Rs 17,778 crores to unitholders or 71% of the AUM of Rs 25,214 crores on the date of the winding-up decision.

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